Han Fei

(redirected from Han Fei-tzu)
Han Fei 韓非
BirthplaceState of Han

Han Fei


(also Han Fei-tzu). Born 288 B.C.; died 233 B.C. A founder of the Legist school (Fa-chia) in ancient China.

An official in the Ch’in state, Han Fei wrote most of the chapters of the treatise Han Fei-tzu, which focused on the problems of managing an administrative apparatus. As a supporter of despotic government, Han Fei developed a series of specific measures designed to limit the rights of the bureaucracy. According to the treatise, “under no circumstances should a ruler share power with anyone. If he yields to civil servants so much as a grain of his power, they will immediately turn this grain into one hundred grains” (ch. 31). Han Fei’s ideas greatly influenced the world view of the emperor Shih Huang-ti.


Drevnekitaiskaia filosofiia, vol. 2. Moscow, 1973.
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2] A more balanced account of the period might have included Hsun-tzu, Han Fei-tzu, the Huang-Lao manuscripts from Ma-wang-tui, and especially Chuangtzu, who, because of this very opposition to all political thinking, cannot be left out of any account of early Chinese political philosophy.
By and large we shall follow the traditional views, assuming that such works as the Kuo yu [Chinese Text Omitted], Hsun-tzu [Chinese Text Omitted], and Han Fei-tzu [Chinese Text Omitted] were completed after the Tso chuan.
The Han Fei-tzu, it would seem, supports this general impression, although, in the context of the Ts'ai Chi affair, it clearly portrays the duke as an angry man who wishes to punish Ts'ai without regard for the potential risks involved in such a move.
The Han Fei-tzu, for example, has this: "Duke Huan of Ch'i was by nature jealous and fond of women (hao nei)," continuing to say, "therefore, Shu-tiao [Chinese Text Omitted] castrated himself so as to be put in charge of the [duke's] harem.
32) The Han Fei-tzu contains another passage that bears on the duke's poor behavior: "Duke Huan disheveled his hair, met (yu [Chinese Text Omitted]) his wife (or wives), and, on a daily [basis], went through the markets [with her (or them)].
Although Mencius joined the general chorus in denouncing King K'uai's decision to abdicate the throne in Yen, Han Fei-tzu was right to blame the Confucians for muddying the issue of political abdication; as Han Fei remarked: "The Confucians with their learning bring confusion to the law.
28 That it should be a superior who yields is made abundantly clear in definitions provided by Mo-tzu and by Han Fei-tzu.